2009 CFN Florida Preview
Florida QB Tim Tebow
Florida QB Tim Tebow
Posted Jun 22, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Florida Gators

Florida Gators

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By Pete Fiutak

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- 2009 CFN Florida Preview | 2009 Florida Offense
- 2009 Florida Defense
| 2009 Florida Depth Chart
2008 Florida Preview
| 2007 Florida Preview | 2006 Florida Preview

Head coach: Urban Meyer
5th year: 44-9
9th year overall: 83-17
Lettermen Returning
Off. 20, Def. 30, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 18
Ten Best Gator Players
1. QB Tim Tebow, Sr.
2. LB Brandon Spikes, Sr.
3. DE Jermaine Cunningham, Sr.
4. DE Carlos Dunlap, Jr.
5. CB Joe Haden, Jr.
6. TE Aaron Hernandez, Jr.
7. OG Mike Pouncey, Jr.
8. SS Ahmad Black, Jr.
9. FS Major Wright, Jr.
10. S Will Hill, Soph.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 0-0

9/5 Charleston South.
9/12 Troy
9/19 Tennessee
9/26 at Kentucky
10/10 at LSU
10/17 Arkansas
10/24 at Miss State
10/31 Georgia (Jack.)
11/7 Vanderbilt
11/14 at South Carolina
11/21 FIU
11/28 Florida State

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 13-1

Aug. 30 Hawaii W 56-10
Sept. 6 Miami W 26-3
Sept. 13 OPEN DATE 
Sept. 20 at Tennessee W 30-6
Sept. 27 Ole Miss L 31-30
Oct. 4 at Arkansas W 38-7
Oct. 11 LSU W 51-21
Oct. 18 OPEN DATE 
Oct. 25 Kentucky W 63-5
Nov. 1 Georgia (Jack.) W 49-10
Nov. 8 at Vanderbilt W 42-14
Nov. 15 South Carolina W 56-6
Nov. 22 The Citadel W 70-19
Nov. 29 at Florida State W 45-15
Dec. 6 SEC Championship
Alabama W 31-20
BCS Championship
Jan. 8 Oklahoma W 24-14

1999 Tennessee couldn't do it despite getting almost all the key parts back. 2002 Miami was loaded but couldn't close the deal. 2003 Ohio State couldn't keep up the magic. 2005 USC was already handed the Greatest Of All-Time tag by ESPN before Vince Young and Texas had other thoughts. Now it'll be up to Florida to do the near-impossible in today's day and age and take all of the experience and all the talent from a national championship team and repeat. And right there is part of the problem.

The stars of the show aren't just talking about repeating as SEC champions, which by itself is an achievement worth more than a hearty handshake, and they're not just talking about bucking history to repeat as national champions to bring the program its third title in four years; they're talking about immortality. While that's what a team this good should be shooting for, when nothing less than being considered among the greatest juggernauts in the history of the sport is your goal, it's hard to not get REALLY tight when the pressure is on.

How will this team handle adversity now that it has done the Tim Tebow motivational speaker thing? Where can this team go to get to the level they want to achieve, considering the program needed a gift from the gods to win the 1996 national title (Arizona State lost to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl), needed USC to choke in 2006 to get the shot at throttling Ohio State, and lost to Ole Miss last season?

Florida, like any other SEC team, can lose a game and still play for the national championship, but it won't exactly sit well with everyone who passed up sure-thing millions to come back to do something special if this is another 13-1 season, even if there's a big crystal football at the end of the rainbow. This is a 14-0 team that shouldn't be touched if it plays up to its talent level week in and week out. It's not just No. 1 going into the season, it's No. 1 and No. 2, either Texas, Oklahoma, or USC, aren't even in the discussion. For this season, Florida might have to lose twice to not get to Pasadena, but this group is demanding something more.

The wide receivers are a bit suspect after Percy Harvin decided he didn't want to be a part of the fun and jetted early for the NFL, while Louis Murphy was an underappreciated star who'll be missed. Other than that, and the receivers are hardly a glaring problem, there isn't one area that shouldn't be better than last year when the Gators won it all.

The defensive line has two starting NFL ends in Jermaine Cunningham and Carlos Dunlap, while the tackles should form a brick wall of a rotation with great young players like Omar Hunter pushing the established stars. The linebacking corps would be among the best in America without Brandon Spikes, who returns to the middle after being told he'd have likely been a top ten pick had he chose to come out early. The secondary goes two deep with a ball-hawking group of safeties and a tackling-machine of a corner who in Joe Haden who can erase half the field.

The running backs might not be special, but they're tremendously fast, the offensive line is very talented and has a slew of young stars waiting in the wings, and then there's the quarterback situation. John Brantley had a phenomenal spring and has NFL upside once he becomes next year's starter, but for now, he'll have to settle for working behind Tim Tebow, who for all the garbage and all the love-letters thrown his way by a fawning media and the opposing coaches, really will deserve Greatest College Quarterback Ever designation if he can lead the way to another national title.

If that wasn't enough, the special teams might be the best in America with everyone returning. PK Jonathan Phillips doesn't have a deep leg, but he missed just one field goal attempt, Brandon James is an elite return man, and punter Chas Henry will average around 43 yards per kick.

So why play the season? Why shouldn't we all save ourselves the time and effort and just crown the Gators champions so we can all go on and do bigger and better things with our lives?

1999 Tennessee, 2002 Miami, 2003 Ohio State, 2005 USC ...

What to watch for on offense:
The I-formation?! New offensive coordinator Steve Addazio was experimenting this offseason in an attempt to add a few more wrinkles to the equation. No, this isn't going to be 1977 Nebraska, and the spread isn't going anywhere, but part of the overall goal is to develop Tim Tebow's NFL passing ability and to get the running backs more involved. The biggest beneficiary in this year's offense, which really isn't going to change, will be tight end Aaron Hernandez. The team's third leading receiver last year will get the ball more often and will be the go-to receiver now that Harvin and Murphy are gone.

What to watch for on defense: The backups. With 11 starters returning from a defense that finished ninth in the nation, fourth in scoring D, and held down the all-timer of an Oklahoma offense, there isn't all that much room for wild, sweeping changes. But there's a problem that's not really a problem: some of the backups are better than the starters. Omar Hunter is a fantastic tackle prospect who'll be perfect on the nose and could see far more time in the rotation at both spots. Will Hill might be the team's best safety, but he'll have a hard time knocking all-stars Ahmad Black and Major Wright out of a job. Years of strong recruiting has stocked the shelves, and it should be interesting to see how the rotation ends up playing out.

The team will be far better if … it doesn't buy into the outside pressures and the hype, and the penalties slow down. Every week there will be another Greatest Of All-Time story, and the players want to hit that point, too. But all the attention from the media, the expectations of winning every game by three touchdowns, and everyone trying to do their best to poke the bear (cough, Lane Kiffin, cough), all this team needs to do is play up to its capabilities and everything will be fine. Basically, don't go insane and focus on the task at hand (and any other cliché you'd like to throw out there). On the field, the penalties need to slow down after committing a whopping 102.

The Schedule: October 10th at LSU and October 31st against Georgia. That's it. Oh sure, there will be plenty of squawking about a possible upset at South Carolina, but if Florida is as good as it's supposed to be, that's not all that bad a trip. There's nothing else to worry about unless there's a major upset at Mississippi State, at Kentucky, or against Florida State. So it all comes down to the trio to LSU, but it comes after a week off. The Georgia game comes after a game against former offensive coordinator, Dan Mullen, and his Mississippi State team.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Tim Tebow. Yeah, you're sick of him, and it's only going to get worse, but he really has been that good. Forget about the leadership angle for a second and just look at the stats. He has completed 66% of his passes for 6,390 yards and 67 touchdowns with 11 interceptions, and he has rushed for 2,037 yards and 43 scores. He throws a better, more accurate ball than most scouts give him credit for, and while his bruising running style isn't pretty, it's brutally effective. Tebow has all but thrown out the old fun 'n' gun by powering his way to national championships. No one can ever call Florida a finesse team.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Brandon Spikes. Every bit the leader and the star for the Florida defense that Tebow is for the offense, Spikes has made 239 career tackles with 11 broken up passes, three interceptions, and 25 tackles for loss. He has prototype size and athleticism, and he's likely to become more of the team's spokesman than Tebow will. He's demanding greatness out of this defense and this team as he takes on an even greater role going into the final season of his terrific career.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore WR Deonte Thompson. Florida doesn't have another Percy Harvin, but it has several receivers who can fly. Thompson is a 6-0, 195-pound burner who caught 18 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns with a 14.9-yard-per-catch average. Tight end Aaron Hernandez will be the team's best target, but Thompson has to be the most dangerous.

The season will be a success if ... Florida goes 14-0 and wins the national championship. Anything less than a perfect season will be a slight disappointment, and anything less than a national championship would be a complete and utter failure. Yes, the expectations are ridiculously high, but they deserve to be.

Key game: Oct. 31 vs. Georgia. Watch out. Georgia is really, really good, better than last year good, and it has the potential to pull off the win in the heated rivalry by using its great offensive line to slug the Gators in the mouth. Florida can lose at LSU on October 10 and still accomplish its national title goal, but it might not be able to get to Pasadena if it loses to the Dawgs.

2008 Fun Stats: 

- First quarter scoring: Florida 167 - Opponents 20
- Third down conversion percentage: Florida 83-of-161 (52%) - Opponents 63-of-192 (33%)
- Interceptions thrown: Opponents 26 - Florida 5

- 2009 CFN Florida Preview
| 2009 Florida Offense
- 2009 Florida Defense
| 2009 Florida Depth Chart
2008 Florida Preview
| 2007 Florida Preview | 2006 Florida Preview

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